Even in the digital age, oceans can sometimes seem like insurmountable barriers. But Oxford, England, alt-rock quintet Foals are hoping that good music–and good marketing–know no bounds.
The group found success in its home country with its 2008 debut, “Antidotes,” and 2010 follow-up “Total Life Forever,” but the seeds were planted for success stateside. The latter disc, which had a delayed release in the United States on Sub Pop, was heavily pirated in the States, encouraging Warner Bros. to pick up the band and unveil its new third album, “Holy Fire,” in the States on Feb. 11, the same day as Warner Bros. U.K.’s release. The album is preceded by first single “Inhaler,” a buoyant number that sidesteps the band’s earlier sound and gives new fans something to grab onto.
“It was a curve ball for a lot of people,” singer/guitarist Yannis Phillippakis says while on tour in Australia. “It subverted people’s expectations. For people that are anticipating our record, it’s a palate cleanser. It opens a window.”
The single has opened a window for Warner as well. The label, which inherited Foals from Sub Pop through a deal with Alternative Distribution Alliance, is bringing the band to U.S. radio for essentially the first time. Since the track’s release in November, the radio departments of Warner and Q Prime have worked hand in hand to send “Inhaler” up Billboard’s Alternative chart, making it the No. 1 most-added track for two weeks in mid-January.
“We felt like it had what was missing in the alternative radio space-one of our main drivers, combined with touring,” Warner Bros. senior director of marketing Kerri Borsuk says. “Foals are authentic. They’re not a one-hit wonder. They’re so artful, and that translates through all facets of the marketing.”
Recorded last summer with Flood and Alan Moulder in London, “Holy Fire” focuses on revealing the band’s new, more aggressive tendencies. “‘Total Life Forever’ was an introverted record in some ways,” Phillippakis says. “We definitely didn’t want to do that [again]. We wanted to do something that was more muscular and had more bile in it.”
Foals won’t tour stateside until April, which means that online activity will have to tide fans over after the album arrives. One major component of the online campaign has been the transformation of the band’s website into an enigmatic portal that requires secret codes to unlock exclusive content like remixes and videos.
“It’s very Foals, the way they’re doing it,” Borsuk says. “There’s an element of mystery and intrigue for the fans.”
While the label is anticipating that this will be the album that breaks Foals in the States, the group is just proud to be evolving in a way that feels genuine.
“We feel confident that we’ve created a lot of space for ourselves,” Phillippakis says. “It doesn’t feel like we’re tethered to somebody else’s prescribed notions of what we should sound like. We haven’t put ourselves in a corner. We’ve gone and explored the room.”